Tag Archives: Santa Claus

Christmas airmail

In the lead-up to Christmas we are sharing with you 12 Posters of Christmas, a dozen classic postal posters from the Royal Mail Archive. Today’s is…

Poster advertising Christmas air mail services; featuring a flying Father Christmas with wings made out of Air Mail stickers, designed by Dick Negus and Philip Sharland, 1962. (POST 110/4254)

Poster advertising Christmas air mail services; featuring a flying Father Christmas with wings made out of Air Mail stickers, designed by Dick Negus and Philip Sharland, 1962. (POST 110/4254)

This poster from 1962 gives the last posting dates for Christmas mail sent by airmail in that year. Airmail is usually associated with international mail services but after the Second World War the Post Office began to use scheduled inland flights to carry mail between major centres.

Since 1979 Royal Mail has developed an inland network of nightly flights between provincial centres. Its national air network, Skynet, ensures millions of letters reach their destination the day after posting. Thanks to Skynet some of your Christmas cards and parcels will have gone by air for part of their journey without the need for an airmail sticker.

If Skynet sounds a bit Terminator and not as fun as this Father Christmas with angel wings of airmail stickers, we can only apologise.

Christmas stamps 2012

The illustrator behind the world famous children’s classic The Gruffalo brings his unique style to this year’s Royal Mail Christmas stamp issue. The seven stamps, issued today, are inspired by classic Christmas images, brought to life through the instantly recognisable illustrations of Axel Scheffler.

Christmas 2012 Presentation Pack.

Christmas 2012 Presentation Pack.

His gentle and disarming approach can be seen straight away on both the 1st and 2nd class stamps; a Christmas robin perches on Santa’s hand on the 1st Class stamp, while a reindeer’s antlers take on the role of a Christmas tree for the 2nd Class image.

Christmas 2012 - 1st and 2nd class stamps.

Christmas 2012 – 1st and 2nd class stamps.

The other Christmas stamps feature a snowman meeting a penguin (87p), a Christmas robin bearing a star decoration in his beak (£1.28), and on the £1.90 stamps, the cat and mouse set aside their normal differences to decorate the Christmas tree together.

Christmas 2012 - 87p, £1.28 and £1.90 stamps.

Christmas 2012 – 87p, £1.28 and £1.90 stamps.

Designers Webb & Webb were commissioned by Royal Mail to devise the Christmas stamps and suggested Axel Scheffler, who they worked with to create images suitable for the small format of a stamp.

Two different pictorial ‘first day of issue postmarks’ are available, and as always with Christmas stamp issues one of these is from the village of Bethlehem in Wales.

Christmas 2012 - First Day of Issue handstamps.

Christmas 2012 – First Day of Issue handstamps.

Royal Mail’s policy for Christmas stamps is to alternate non-secular and secular themes; the 2011 stamps marked the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, and this year a secular theme has been chosen. To provide choice for customers, the popular 1st and 2nd Class Madonna and Child stamps, first issued in 2007, will also be available.

Stamps and stamp products are available at most Post Office branches, online at www.royalmail.com/christmas2012 and from Royal Mail Tallents House (tel. 08457 641 641), 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB.

GPO Christmas Posters

The tendency of many people to post letters at the very last minute poses a considerable problem to the Post Office and Royal Mail especially in the run-up to Christmas. The large volume of post, late in the day or only a few days before the Christmas holidays, has made the allocation of resources and the efficient provision of service much more complex and costly since the 1930s. When the GPO Public Relations Department was created in 1934, a poster campaign to educate the public to “Post Early this Christmas” started and some striking and wonderful poster designs were produced. We wrote about this successful campaign in a previous blog and now want to present some of our favourite poster images to set the mood for Christmas – and to remind you to “Shop Early – Post Early.”

Shop Early – Post Early poster (Holly Leaf) by Derek Hass from 1953 (POST 110/4243)

Shop Early – Post Early poster (Holly Leaf) by Derek Hass from 1953 (POST 110/4243)

From the 1930s to the 1960s, the Post Office commissioned well-known designers like Jan Lewitt & George Him, Tom Eckersley or Barnett Freedman for posters informing the public about the correct use of the postal service. Just like modern advertising campaigns, the designers used animals, striking colours and humour to get their message across. Tom Eckersley’s “Be First, Not Last – Travel Early – Shop Early – Post Early” poster from 1955 features a pantomime horse in two halves: the front half (“Be First”) is smiling, the back half (“Not Last”) frowning. Dogs, Cats, Reindeer, Doves and Owls were equally popular motives to educate the public and prevent the Christmas rush.

Be First, Not Last – Travel Early – Shop Early – Post Early by Tom Eckersley from 1955 (POST 110/1340)

Be First, Not Last – Travel Early – Shop Early – Post Early by Tom Eckersley from 1955 (POST 110/1340)

Post Early (Dachshund) by Leonard Beaumont from 1950

Post Early (Dachshund) by Leonard Beaumont from 1950

Santa Claus himself also appears in different shapes and sizes – “on wheels” with his beard flying in the wind (Manfred Reiss, 1952), skating on ice (POST 110/3213 John Rowland Barker c.1951), or flying over a smoking chimney with a bag of parcels (Eric Fraser, 1946).

Travel Shop Post Early (Father Christmas) poster by John Rowland Barker a.k.a. Kraber from 1951 (POST 110/3213)

Travel Shop Post Early (Father Christmas) poster by John Rowland Barker a.k.a. Kraber from 1951 (POST 110/3213)

Post Early and get 20% off BPMA Christmas cards!

Buy your Christmas cards by the 19 November 2012 from the BPMA Online Shop and receive 20% off your Christmas cards order over £10 (before Postage & Packaging). Enter POSTEARLY2012 discount code at checkout, or visit our Public Search Room in London.

Virtual Advent Calendar – 18th December

In the lead-up to Christmas we are showcasing some of the festive items in our collection across our social networks. Behind the door of our virtual advent calendar today is…

First Day Cover for Britain’s first Christmas stamps (1966)

First Day Cover for Britain’s first Christmas stamps (1966)

The designs for Britain’s first Christmas stamps came about as the result of a competition for children. Eight professional stamp designers judged the 5000 entries received and eventually awarded the prizes to Tasveer Shemza and James Berry, both aged six. Shemza’s design features King Wenceslas, while Berry’s shows a snowman.

The image of Santa Claus which appears on the First Day Cover was designed by Ann Belshaw.

See larger images of all the items in our Virtual Advent Calendar on Flickr.

Virtual Advent Calendar – 17th December

In the lead-up to Christmas we are showcasing some of the festive items in our collection across our social networks. Behind the door of our virtual advent calendar today is…

For Christmas send gay Postal Order gift cards. 4d each with envelope (1961)

For Christmas send gay Postal Order gift cards. 4d each with envelope (1961)

Poster advertising postal order accessories.

Artist: Not known.

See larger images of all the items in our Virtual Advent Calendar on Flickr.

Virtual Advent Calendar – 12th December

In the lead-up to Christmas we are showcasing some of the festive items in our collection across our social networks. Behind the door of our virtual advent calendar today is…

Illustrated Songsheet: I’m sending a letter to Santa Claus (c. 1939)

Illustrated Songsheet: I'm sending a letter to Santa Claus (c. 1939)

Illustrated songsheet, front cover depicts a young boy, standing in falling snow, reaching upwards to post a letter addressed to Santa Claus. Photograph of Gracie Fields is superimposed on cover.

Composer: Lanny Rogers and Spencer Williams

Purchased through the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

See larger images of all the items in our Virtual Advent Calendar on Flickr.

Letters to Santa

For many years children writing to Santa were disappointed when he appeared to return their letters without a word. Until 1963, letters addressed to him care of a fictional address were returned to sender because of the legal requirement to treat them as undeliverable. But in 1963, Royal Mail’s scheme to reply to letters sent to Santa began. Mail addressed to Father Christmas c/o Snowland, Toyland, Reindeerland or any other fictional address would be dealt with separately. The Post Office would send a card from Father Christmas inside an envelope with a ‘Reindeerland Postage Paid’ cancellation stamp.

Letter to Santa Claus, 1963

Letter to Santa Claus, 1963

Not all letters to Santa would be dealt with by the Post Office. There were already some commercial and charitable organisations providing this service, and the Postmaster General did not want to divert mail away from them. So letters marked ‘Father Christmas, c/o Gamages’ for example, would still be delivered to that address. Similarly, the Post Office was obliged under international regulations to continue to forward the 80,000 letters address to Santa in other countries, most commonly Greenland and Denmark, to be dealt with by their respective postal services.

Reply from Santa Claus which appeared in a specially designed greetings card, 1963

Reply from Santa Claus which appeared in a specially designed greetings card, 1963

Other countries had different schemes in place, and the Post Office considered the advantages and disadvantages of their methods before adopting one. In Denmark, for example, the postal service asked children to enclose a postal order for one kroner, in return for which children received a gift and profits were donated to charity. However, this idea was considered too controversial and legally complex, and in the end the Post Office opted for the free and simpler scheme similar to the one already in place in France.

Thank you letter to Santa Claus

Thank you letter to Santa Claus

At the start of the scheme it was difficult to predict how many letters would actually need answering. Only those letters with return addresses could be responded to of course, which was about a quarter of the total sent. At Post Office Headquarters in 1963 five clerical assistants carried out the work of opening, sorting and addressing the envelopes. That year 8000 cards were sent.

Specially designed reply card from Santa, 1964

Specially designed reply card from Santa, 1964

The scheme was very well received by the press, and the Postmaster General Reginald Bevins was labelled Santa ‘Bevins’. Since then, Santa has continued to work hard sending out cards each year, and he even has his own postcode: SAN TA1! This year, children hoping to receive a response from Father Christmas have until 15 December to post their letters to him.

Sources: POST 122/6325-POST 122/6339, Royal Mail Archive